January 24, 2012 by Crane Wood Stookey
We usually accept that teaching others can be a generous thing to do. Being willing to learn from others can also be generous, and a powerful way to engage the best in them.
What do your people know that you don’t? Have you made an effort to find out? Have you created a culture in which people expect to learn from each other up and across the organizational chart as well as down?
It may feel a bit unsettling to encourage people under you to show that they know more than you do, but people are always going to know things you don’t know. None of us are omniscient. An excellent way to engage people is to ask them to teach something, and then make the effort to actually learn it and make use of it.
Curiosity practice – If you are not naturally inclined to seek out what you can learn from your team members, you can start with safe territory. For instance, Read more…
January 8, 2012 by Crane Wood Stookey
Michael Scott was for many years CEO of Precision BioLogic, a medium-sized medical products company rated one of the Top Ten Best Places to Work in Canada. He’s now Executive Chair.
For a few years now Michael has been pushing the chairs back against the boardroom table whenever he sees that they’re out of place. He makes sure the chairs are evenly spaced and neat. He’ll do this at the end of any meeting he’s in, after people have left or as he’s talking to someone who stayed behind. If he walks by the open door to the room and sees another group has left the chairs in disarray, he’ll go in and arrange them, and whoever might be walking with him has to follow him in.
His employees began by thinking this was odd, Read more…
January 4, 2012 by Crane Wood Stookey
Do you ever feel psyched out, stuck in worried preoccupation, or just completely disengaged and wanting to be somewhere else? What do you do when you’re caught up in an unproductive state of mind and you’re having trouble getting out of it? Do you have practices that help you ground yourself again, so you can proceed at your best?
Here’s a technique that works for me when I need to re-engage myself; when I need to change my mind, in the moment, on the spot. I feel these kinds of things are good to remind myself of at the start of a new year.
These techniques have to be simple and readily available. This one’s called Doorknob Practice.
A doorknob has a shape, a texture, a temperature, a quality of movement, a sound as it operates. It has a feel in your hand. It has a feel in your mind.
When you handle a doorknob, you can use that moment as a small but complete self-engagement practice for yourself. First, let the doorknob hold your attention. Let it hold the participation of all your senses for the moment you touch it. Read more…
November 26, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
Captain Jan Miles has been captain of the PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II for over 25 years, and I sailed with him on PRIDE as one of the Mates on a nine-month voyage from Baltimore up the Atlantic coast into the Great Lakes and back. The PRIDE is a Tall Ship, a 157’ square-topsail schooner carrying over 9,000 square feet of sail, and she sails all over the world as goodwill ambassador for Baltimore and the State of Maryland.
On our way back from Chicago we were approaching Mackinac Island at the northern tip of Michigan. It was late evening, getting dark, with a moderate breeze from the northwest. Mackinac harbour is formed by rock breakwaters, and the widest part inside where PRIDE could anchor is only about eight times the length of the ship. Cruising boats at anchor are scattered throughout, and a lane has to be left open for the ferry. For a ship the size of PRIDE, it’s a crowded spot. Read more…
August 28, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
On a clear, windy day in the protected waters of Mahone Bay, the Sea School’s boat, ELIZABETH HALL, sails dancingly through the waves, her side only a few inches above the water. I lean down on the edge, my elbow splashed now and then, watching the elegant curve of her planks arcing steadily through the lapping and gurgling of the waves. I am as close to the water and to the graceful strength of the boat as I can be, and the intimate vividness of it makes me laugh with delight.
This is my favourite memory of leading a 7-day coastal voyage recently with a crew of twelve in this 30′ open boat. On the voyage, the thirteen of us are also as close to each other as we can be. There’s barely room for us all to stretch out on the oars at night and sleep. This is claustrophobic and frustrating, but like the closeness of the water, it’s very real. Read more…
August 9, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
I’ve just returned from sailing the South Shore of Nova Scotia for ten days. Of all the teachers that live along the coast, the most profound for me may be the Great Blue Heron. The Heron understands the interplay of stillness and action, and I learn a little more about that every time I see one.
As Alan Watts wrote, “A heron stands stock-still at the edge of a pool, gazing into the water. It does not seem to be looking for fish, and yet the moment a fish moves it dives. [The way to see nature] is simply to observe silently, openly, and without seeking any particular result.”
It’s usually my habit to bring activity and intention with me wherever I go. Even when I’ve anchored for the night in a quiet cove and the stillness of the evening gathers around me, I’m likely to jump down into the cabin to fix this or that, or at least sit planning how I’ll fix those things or make some other improvement on the boat. It takes some discipline to experience the stillness all around, and actually see what’s there. When I manage to do this, I see all kinds of things I was missing, out in the world, and inside my head.
Much of my work is training of various kinds, and whenever possible I make use of boats, the water, and the natural world, which are the most powerful teachers I know. But I have to remember to give those things space to teach. Read more…
July 18, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
Leadership is not about the leader. Management is not about the manager. If we think the people we’re working with need to learn a lesson from us, that’s a sure sign that we haven’t yet understood enough about what’s going on with them.
Here’s a cautionary tale.
At a conference on experiential education in the corporate sector, a participant named Sandra asked the working group I was part of if she could present to us one of her intervention techniques that she thought we could all learn something from. We said okay.
Sandra asked us to find something of ours that we cared about; jewelry, journal, photo or the like, though she advised us not to choose something too fragile. Read more…
May 2, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
When it comes to engagement, efficiency can be a remarkably poor way of accomplishing things. It may be good for getting specific things done, but for engaging people or offering them ways to grow and learn, efficiency just isn’t very efficient.
On a Nova Scotia Sea School adventure voyage, the food for the teenage crew is kept in watertight plastic buckets. The Sea School’s boat is completely open to the weather, and everything gets wet and stepped on. Read more…
April 24, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
Ask any child if they feel deeply engaged by their school, and what do most answer? Ask any child how their school should be run, and they’ll have plenty to say. But there’s one school that actually listens: the Sudbury Valley School, a private school for all grades in Massachusetts that fosters a truly remarkable level of engagement in its students.
Sudbury Valley calls itself a democratic school, which is accurate, because all decisions regarding the day-to-day operation of the school are made by the weekly School Meeting. Every student, in all the grades, and all staff have a vote in the School Meeting. The staff have a lot of influence and are respected as elders, but there are over 200 students and around 11 staff, so the students rule. The School Meeting sets the budget, allocates funds, creates and enforces the rules, and hires and fires the staff. Read more…
April 9, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
This is an awkward story. One of my coaching clients asked me to work with her and her team in defining the vision for a new venture. When we came to the point of defining the actual purpose of the venture itself, it got sticky. People wanted to think very broadly, in almost global terms, far beyond the scope of the actual work. This was important because it was the source of inspiration, the reason they were so excited about the venture in the first place. But it was making it hard to define, and all the words on the flip charts were getting confusing. The team was bogging down. Read more…